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Report: Many school districts flout law on superintendent pay

April 21, 2013

More than 25 percent of Indiana school superintendents do not comply with a year-old state law requiring them to post their employment contracts on their districts' websites, a report Sunday said.

The Evansville Courier & Press reported Sunday that it found 106 Indiana school superintendents haven't posted their contracts or they've posted them in such a way that finding them online requires help.

More than a year after former Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the disclosure statute into law and more than nine months after it took effect in Indiana, compliance remains uneven, the newspaper found, and the statute's author says enforcement is impossible because lawmakers felt the two most appropriate state agencies were too political to be entrusted with it.

In one case, the contract was located on the school district's site with a search engine, but it wasn't possible to access the page containing it from the district's website. In another case, the information was listed under "employment opportunities."

In some cases, superintendent contracts were not posted at all. For example, the superintendents at East Gibson School Corp. and the Metropolitan School District of North Posey County in southwestern Indiana both acknowledged their contracts were not online.

"The law doesn't really spell out where exactly (a superintendent's contract) has to appear on the website, but with some you can easily go to the website and find the contract without any hesitation," said Indiana Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage, who has inspected school district sites. "With others, it really takes some poking around."

Hoage recalled going to one school system's website that featured a link to another page.

"The contract was linked to that page, but you wouldn't know that there was a link to that contract unless you specifically highlighted one of two words," he said. "That was their compliance with the law."

Asked whether some superintendents were deliberately making their contracts difficult to find, Hoage said, "Some clearly are doing a better job than others at making it user-friendly as much as feasibly possible."

House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, and the author of the statute, said it was prompted by widespread outrage in 2011 over a $1 million-plus retirement package for then-Wayne Township Superintendent Terry Thompson upon his departure. The Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, which said it had not known about the most expensive components of Thompson's contract, later filed a lawsuit accusing him of employing "an elaborate, complex and deceitful scheme."

Superintendent Todd Camp of the Metropolitan School District of North Posey County said he believed he had a year from the law's effective date last July 1 to comply.

"When that law went into place, basically it was that all superintendent contracts had to be published on the website after July 1 (2012) if you made any changes to the contract, which we did not," Camp said last week. "This year we're reviewing my contract, and it is going to go on the website when we make those adjustments this year."

Camp said he got his interpretation at an Indiana School Boards Association seminar.

"That statement was made. If there was no changes in your contract, basically you had a year to get it up, and so I didn't put it on there," he said.

Camp, who said he has no objection to sharing his contract with the public, said he will post it sometime in June.

Behning, however, said the statute establishes no timeline for posting contracts later than the July 1, 2012, effective date. "All contracts are to be posted of any certificated employees as of July 1, 2012," he said.

Behning had wanted to enforce the public disclosure law by withholding state funding in noncompliant school districts, but he said other legislators shot down the idea.

Because the Indiana State Board of Education is controlled by the governor's party and the Indiana Department of Education is run by the partisan elected state education superintendent, he said, lawmakers felt neither would be trusted to enforce such a law.

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